Magnetic Island 19 06.810S 146 51.451E - A Magnificent Sail - And a scary bit too

Mike and Liz Downing
Wed 17 Jul 2013 12:14
After our after dark anchoring last night at Cape Upstart, we woke up this morning to find we had anchored in a good spot - not too close in, but not too far out either. It was very sheltered and we had a good night's sleep. The hills along the Cape were quite a bit bigger than we had thought. It was a good place to stay the night.
Arrived at Magnetic Island, just off Townsville, at 17.00 today after one of the best sails we've had since crossing the Pacific in 2010. It also included a 2 minute period which was one of the scariest moments we've had. It was a glorious sunny day all day with southeast winds of 15 to 20kts. This created what appeared a rough sea, with a blue, green and white churning seascape that looked fantastic in the sunshine, but actually it was never more than 1.5 metres and never gave a hint of a problem all day. With the steady wind almost directly behind us and both poles up, Aurora B went like a train all day. We rarely dropped below 7kts and had a 2 hour period where we never dropped below 8kts! It was a 70 mile passage and we had expected to get in after dark again, but we arrived in daylight with time to spare. It really was a great day.
And the scary bit? It was such a good sail I decided to take some video and sat on the side deck at the stern to try and get both poled out sails in the picture. With my eye to the camera there was an almighty explosion behind that scared the living daylights out of me. Turning round all I could see just off the stern was a big area of boiling water - just like a depth charge had exploded (if you remember those old war films). I shouted to Liz to come on deck as something had happened and I didn't know what and as she came up the steps and I started to explain, a huge humpback whale breached a bit further astern, smashing down into the sea. We were making 8kts at the time so were moving away fast and saw it breach several times more before we lost sight of it. The first breach must have been so incredibly close to the boat. Had I turned round at the right moment I would have had a fantastic view and possibly captured it on video too, but probably would have had a heart attack at the same time!  We have always taken the threat of whales seriously, but had always thought the risk was running into one, not having one land on the boat! We were just a bit jittery after that and every time there was an extra loud whoosh as the boat moved thought the water we were looking for whales.
We hope to stay here for a day or two as it's a bit of a holiday island with good walks and nature reserves with Koalas in the wild. So far, the passage up the coast has been with island or mainland anchorages, rather than anchorages on the Great Barrier Reef. This is due to the reef being a long way out and having no documented safe overnight anchorages (other than Lady Musgrave back at the start of the reef). This will continue until we get further north when the reef comes closer to the land. It's a little disappointing as we had hoped to spend time on the reef, but as mentioned, it's not been swimming weather so far. We hope we'll get the opportunity to snorkel on the reef at some point.